Farm Groups Challenge Gag Order in North Carolina Hog Farm Cases

DTN Ag Policy Editor Chris Clayton reported this week that, “A federal judge’s gag order against hog farmers and others tied to nuisance lawsuits prevents those with the most knowledge of the farming practices from talking about the impact the lawsuits have on their livelihoods, lawyers for the American Farm Bureau Federation and North Carolina Farm Bureau Federation wrote in a court brief filed in a federal appeals court Monday.

Farm Bureau groups argue the farmers whose livelihoods are most at risk cannot tell their stories to the press.

“The gag order is related to civil litigation tied to at least three verdicts against Murphy-Brown LLC, a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods. Last week, a jury in North Carolina awarded six plaintiffs $473.5 million, the largest of the cases against the Smithfield subsidiary, for living conditions neighbors of Murphy-Brown hog farms claim they endure by living near the operations. Any final awards in the cases will likely still be capped because of a North Carolina law limiting awards in such cases.”

Mr. Clayton explained that, “The brief was filed in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, asking the court to return the gag order back to the Eastern District Court for North Carolina. The brief was filed in support of others who have petitioned the court to lift the gag order.

The cases have increasingly drawn more attention, but a federal judge issued a gag order in late June to restrict the farmers and plaintiffs from discussing the cases. American Farm Bureau Federation and its North Carolina affiliate argue the gag order violates the farmers’ First Amendment rights.”

The DTN article added, “Even as the latest jury award was handed down last week, leaders in the National Pork Producers Council held a forum last week in North Carolina with several congressmen and senators seeking some federal legislative solution to prevent the lawsuits from continuing to stack up against the pork industry in North Carolina.”

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